Income Tax Rate Changes
In 2014, taxable incomes above the following thresholds now fall into the 39.6% bracket: Married Filing Separately ($228,800), Unmarried Individuals ($406,750), Head of Household ($432,200), and Married Filing Joint Returns ($457,600).
Standard Deduction Increases
The standard deduction – $6,300 for single filers and $12,600 for married taxpayers filing jointly in 2015. That’s up $100 and $200, respectively, from 2014 figures.
Tax Bracket Adjustments
For the new tax year starting in January, income tax thresholds have again been adjusted up for inflation. The highest tax rate of 39.6%, for instance, will now apply to single filers who make over $413,200 and married couples making $464,850. Both figures are up about 1.6% from tax year 2014. For more information on specific income tax brackets by filing status, check out the latest IRS revenue procedure document.
Social Security and Medicare
As was the case in the past, all wages earned in a given year are taxed at the 1.45% rate for Medicare. On your 2014 tax return, wages paid in excess of $200,000 for Unmarried filers and in excess of $250,000 for Married filers will be subject to an extra 0.9% tax. The Social Security tax rate remains at 6.20%, while the wage limit, or Social Security maximum, increases from $113,700 to $117,000. The Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) was 1.5% in 2014, raising the SSI limit to $2,642 per month.
All wages are subject to Medicare tax. That hasn’t changed. But now, taxpayers who make over $200,000 ($250,000 for married taxpayers) will be subject to the Medicare surtax. If that’s you, a Medicare surtax will be tacked on to your wages, compensation, or self-employment income over that amount. The amount of the surcharge is .9%.
Even if you aren’t affected by the Medicare tax surcharge, you still may be subject to the Net Investment Income Tax (NIIT) if you have both net investment income and modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) of at least $200,000 for an individual taxpayer and $250,000 for taxpayers filing as married. Net investment income includes items like interest, dividends, capital gains, rental and royalty income, and certain income from businesses. It doesn’t include wages, unemployment compensation, operating income from a nonpassive business, Social Security Benefits, alimony, tax-exempt interest, self-employment income, Alaska Permanent Fund Dividends and distributions from certain Qualified Plans. For the entire details on the tax – and I mean entire – check out my colleague’s “definitive” answers on the subject.
The limitation for itemized deductions – the Pease limitations, named after former Rep. Don Pease (D-OH) – claimed on individual returns for tax year 2014 will begin with incomes of $254,200 or more ($305,050 for married couples filing jointly). The Pease limitations were slated to be reduced beginning in 2006 and eliminated in 2010; as with the other tax cuts, the elimination was extended through the end of 2012. The limitations were brought back in 2013 at the original thresholds, indexed for inflation. The limitation reduces itemized deductions by 3% of the amount by which your adjusted gross income (AGI) exceeds those thresholds, up to a maximum reduction of 80%. That’s a complicated way of saying that your deductions are limited as your income increases.
Kind of a “tag along” provision is the personal exemption phaseout (PEP). Phase-outs for PEP in 2014 begin with AGI of $254,200 for individuals and $305,050 for married couples filing jointly; the personal exemptions phase out completely at $376,700 for individual taxpayers ($427,550 for married couples filing jointly).
It’s not just higher income taxpayers who will feel a difference: taxpayers who are affected by the Affordable Care Act could also feel the pain in 2014. If you do not have health insurance in 2014 – and you don’t otherwise meet certain exemptions – you’re going to have to pay up. The Internal Revenue Service calls it a “shared responsibility payment.” Other folks call it a penalty. Still others call it a tax or a fee. No matter what you call it, if you don’t have health insurance and don’t otherwise meet certain provisions, you’ll have to cough up either 1% of your taxable income or a flat fee of $95 per uninsured adult and $47.50 per child (up to $285 for a family), whichever amount is higher. But don’t fret just yet: the penalty is due when you file your 2014 tax return in April 2015. By then, you’ll be paying even more: the flat fee increases to $325 in 2015 and $695 in 2016. Ouch.
There is some good news. The self-employed get something of a break in 2014: there is an option to claim a new, simplified deduction for a home office. The deduction is equal to $5/square foot of home office space – up to a maximum of 300 square feet. It’s an easy calculation ($5 x the number of square feet) and beats figuring out your own expenses and pro-rating them though that’s still an option if that works out better for you. The per square foot calculation is intended to save hours more than dollars. The deduction made its first appearance in 2013 but you can also take the deduction in 2014.